It's often said that Thailand is the hardest country to travel to and win a fight. Sometimes it's a statement that perceived to mean that visitors get screwed on the scorecards and whilst that does happen it's not the only reason that winning in Thailand is so difficult. Another reason is the conditions which are genuinely hellish for a visiting fighter.
Thailand has many big fights fought outdoors in sweltering daytime heat with humid and sticky hot air, a crowd baying for blood and generally the nastiest conditions in boxing. It's something that the Thai's use to give their fighters home advantage and whilst it seems "unfair" in some ways it is why their promoters pay big money to get fights at home and why so many Thai's do so well when fighting in their homeland.
Whilst the conditions are nasty to say the least that's not the only reason they win fights, but it does help as evidenced again earlier today when unbeaten Thai Wanheng Menayothin (36-0, 12) claimed the WBC Minimumweight title and stopped Mexican visitor Oswaldo Novoa (14-5-1, 9), who refused to come out for round 10.
The fight started at a great pace, as do most top level Minimumweight contests. Wanheng tried to impose his pressure whilst Novoa fought back with bursts of attack that seemed to catch the eye but not quite do enough to win the rounds. It was clear that we were in for a good one as soon as the first round had ended and things seemed to just get better with the second being fought at an even better pace than the first with some great action on the inside as the distance was quickly cut between the two men.
When we had the first batch of open scoring the cards read 40-36, twice, and 39-37 with all 3 cards favouring the Thai. The two shut outs seemed slightly harsh on the Mexican though they seemed to act as as fire in his belly as he put his foot on the gas in the middle rounds and fought back excellently as he found a new gear. They saw the defending champion claw back some rounds and by the end of the 8th round, a round in which both men were rocked, the fight was very nicely poised with cards that read 76-76, 77-75 and a frankly ridiculous 79-73. Ignoring the one poor card it seemed that the fight was all to play for going into the final few rounds.
Unfortunately for Novoa it seemed the effort he had put into the middle section of fight was beginning to tell on his as he began to slow through round 9 and Wanheng stepped it up again. Suddenly what was looking like a really competitive fight began looking less and less competitive with the Mexican clearly wilting in front of our eyes. He still looked like he had some fight in him but wasn't the fighter he had been in the middle section of the fight and he seemed to know it as he remained in his corner at the end of round and refused to come out for the tenth.
The result was somewhat anti-climatic given some of the exciting action we had seen earlier in the contest however we suspect that had the bout continued then Novoa would have been stopped in the championship rounds had he continued to feel the pace of the fight.
For Novoa this ends a relatively short reign that began in China when he stopped Xiong Zhao Zhong earlier this year whilst for Wanheng this win gives real substance to his record which was looking rather thin prior to this win. Hopefully we'll get a strong reign from Menayothin though we wouldn't be surprised to see him becoming the target of fighters like Kosei Tanaka who we suspect be in the hunt of a world title in 2015.
(Image courtesy of our great friends at Thairec.com)
Upsets and shocks are part of this sport, they are part of why we love boxing and part of the reason why we follow the sport despite the suspect politics and bizarre decisions made by judges, referees and officials. Unfortunately for us, as Asian Boxing, we are on the reverse side of an upset today.
This past Saturday saw Filipino Rey Loreto score a stunning stoppage of Nkosinathi Joyi. Today however the upset came against China's Xiong Zhao Zhong (22-5-1, 12) as the diminutive Chinese fighter lost his WBC Minimumweight title to the unheralded Osvaldo Novoa (13-4-1, 8).
Zhong, who went in to the bout widely regarded as a top 10 fighter in the division, was expected to defeat his visiting opponent who was fighting outside of Mexico for the first time. Unfortunately however Novoa turned out, just like Loreto, to be much better than his record indicated.
The fight actually started well for Zhong who seemed to do enough to just take the opening round. Unfortunately that was the best he could do as Novoa managed to up the pressure, get inside and rough up Zhong with his strength and power. From then on it seemed like Zhong was fighting against the tide. Novoa's natural size, reach and power seemed to be taking it's toll on Zhong who always looked like a freakishly strong 105lb fighter.
When the WBC open scoring kicked in after round 4 there was no denying Zhong was in trouble. All 3 judges had the fight 39-37 in favour of the Mexican who had clearly won everything other than round 1 as Zhong had struggled to even make a dent in his physically imposing Mexican rival.
Unfortunately for Zhong things never got any better as Novoa found another gear and battered the Chinese fighter in round 5 eventually prompting forcing Filipino based referee Bruce McTavish to call a halt to proceedings with Zhong unable to weather the storm any longer.
For Zhong this likely the end his career at the world level. This sort of a loss won't do him any sort of favours when looking over his career and unfortunately will leave many feeling he really was little more than a WBC puppet. Sadly however Zhong just ran into a stronger, more complete and determined fighter who wasn't to be beaten on this night.
For Novoa it seems certain that he'll be one to watch in the future. He's exciting, aggressive and highly dangerous. Whilst we'd not doubt that Katsunari Takayama would love to fight him we can't imagine many others will be queuing for a fight with him.
Incidentally the #1 contender for Novoa is Thailand's unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, my my what a fight that could be...
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.